Minnesota Professor Who Was Fired After Showing Images Of Muhammad During Class Sues University: Report
A hand-written Koran is on display at the Al Murabba Palace and National History Museum.
Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

A Hamline University professor who was fired after showing images of Muhammad in her art class is now reportedly filing a lawsuit against the school.

Dr. Erika Lopez Prater, who lost her job as an art professor after showing the images in a course on Islamic art, filed the legal action on Tuesday, according to FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“Hamline’s actions and statements may have constituted religious discrimination, defamation, and other violations of law,” attorneys representing Prater said, according to FOX 9.

“Hamline’s actions have caused significant damage to Dr. López Prater. In the near term, she has lost the income from her adjunct position. She alleges she also suffered significant emotional distress due to her mistreatment by Hamline,” they continued.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for lost wages, future lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages, according to the outlet.

“Now, whenever she applies to any of these colleges for a tenure track position, and they just happen to Google her name, it’s inextricably intertwined with this allegation of Islamophobia,” Prater’s attorney David Redden said during an interview with FOX 9. “So I think it’s going to have serious repercussions on her efforts to find a tenure track position and really get her career going.”

“Hamline is a multi-cultural, multi-religious community that has been a leader in creating space for civil conversations. Like all organizations, sometimes we misstep,” the university said in a statement released after the lawsuit was announced.

Prater distributed a syllabus for the fall class that warned students that the course would include images of religious figures, including Islam’s founder, Muhammad. The instructor also reportedly warned students in the minutes prior to showing the images in case any students believed they needed to leave the classroom.

As The Daily Wire previously reported, the professor showed two paintings that included a famous 14th-century painting depicting Muhammad and the archangel Gabriel and a 16th-century painting of Muhammad with a veil and halo.

A senior student in the course complained to school leaders, who ultimately decided to cut ties with the professor.

“In lieu of this incident, it was decided it was best that this faculty member was no longer part of the Hamline community,” David Everett, Hamline’s associate vice president for inclusive excellence, told The Oracle.

“It is not our intent to place blame; rather, it is our intent to note that in the classroom incident — where an image forbidden for Muslims to look upon was projected on a screen and left for many minutes — respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom,” Hamline University President Fayneese Miller wrote in a December letter to students.

Christiane Gruber, a professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan, however, spoke out in support of the art professor, starting a petition to reinstate the instructor.

“Through conflation or confusion, Hamline has privileged an ultraconservative Muslim view on the subject that happens to coincide with the age-old Western cliche that Muslims are banned from viewing images of the prophet,” Gruber wrote.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) also called on Hamline to bring back Prater.

“An instructor’s right to navigate difficult material—like whether to display a historical painting of Muhammad when many Muslims believe Muhammad ‘should not be pictured in any way’—is well within Hamline’s commitment to protect academic speech that may ‘potentially be unpopular and unsettling,’” the organization wrote in support of the instructor.

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